Why do we swallow medication?

I was just taking my antibiotics when I wondered, why do we swallow our pills?

I have to confess to not seeing the problem. Why not? What else would we do with them?

There ARE suppositories, of course, and medications taken intravenously, and stuff that’s supposed to melt in your mouth. Do you think all medicines should be in one of those groups? For what reason?

Not flaming, just not quite understanding the question.

I’d rather swallow them then stuff them up my ass. I guess it’s just a personal preference though.

Well I was thinking that it’s so that it somehow gets absorbed into the blood system? If thats the case then why not let it rest between your gums? Wouldn’t the stomach acid make waste out of most of the medication?

Apparently not.

[left this out]

Yeah. Why? It goes through the stomach into the intestine.

Do you have a bad case of gingevitis? Since when do your gums soak up chemicals like DMSO?

There are limits to waht acids can do. It doesn’t render your food into carbon and water, either.

Uhrrm. Have you actually ever tasted any of that stuff? You really, truly don’t want to keep it in your mouth long enough for it be absorbed into your blood through the mucous membranes in your mouth. I’d rather swallow it and be done with it or else shove it up my ass - although I’d swallow it by preference since my asshole is just not a place I like to put things into.
As for the stomache acid, I don’t think it will bother the medicine too much. It seems to me that a medicine that gets destroyed easily by stomach acid wouldn’t get approved for that type of use. The FDA would more likely let it only be given intravenously.

Apparently not, since medicine works. I’d rather swallow a pill than keep it in my mouth until it feels like dissolving, and this is from a guy who hates swallowing big pills (I’m as bad as a five-year-old; I think I’m going to choke to death every time).

What’s your beef with swallowing medicine anyway?

Many homeopathic remedies are taken by allowing them to disolve under the tongue, but many of then do not taste all that pleasant…


Right. Each form of dosage is formulated according to various criteria including how readily it is absorbed, how effectively the active ingredient is put to the intended use once in the bloodstream, ease of storage/transport/administration, and how to maximize patient compliance i.e. how to make it so that the patient is willing to take it.
For centuries the tried and true tested way of getting a substance into the body and having it assimilated has been to drink/eat it. Simple empirical observation: you drink coffee, you become alert; you drink wine, you become mellow; you eat fresh veggies, you avoid scurvy. Evidently, digestive enzymes do not destroy caffeine, alcohol or ascorbate (Vit.C). So, it only makes sense to look for and design medications that will work this way – it involves none of the discomfort/pain of injectable/rectal administration; it can be self-administered and flavored to make it pleasant to take; and does not require the careful management of sterility of injectables.

There also may be fashions involved; it used to be the stereotype that if a drug had to be administered, the Americans preferred capsules, the English liquid medicines, the Italians suppositories, and the Germans injections.

Perhaps the unpleasent taste increases the placebo effect? Might be worth looking into… Even with truly effective medicine, some extra placebo effect won’t hurt.

In Stephen King’s It, Eddie Kaspbrak (whose mother is sort of a hypochondric by proxy) takes an asthma medicine that consists of water, “with a drop of campher to make it taste like medicine”. And it’s certainly very efficient.

If being unpleasant has a placebo effect, you’d think supositories or injections would be better :smiley:

Some drugs are coated with a coating that resists stomach acid and dissolves in the intestines. My father couldn’t swallow pills and chewed them up (usually with bread) and swallowed them, but they didn’t have those coated pills then. And some pills are slow release meaning they must dissolve in the stomach acid but slowly.

Now some drugs cannot be taken orally. Either the digestive processes destroy them or they are not properly absorbed in the intestinal tract. These are either injected, perhaps given by suppository or even by skin patch. But whatever, the delivery system is part of the research that goes into new drugs.

Erm you also inject some drugs straight in the blood stream …

Insulin, for instance, cannot be taken by mouth, because the stomach and intestines break it down into its component proteins.

Related question: Humans can actually take medication through the anus? I always thought that the rectum and lower laerge intestine don’t absorb anything. If that’s the case, we should be able to take in food via the rectum too, right? Maybe drink water that way as well.

Morphine and aminophylline suppositories are both available, along with tylenol, compazine, tigan, and others. They all melt and are quickly absorbed, if the patient doesn’t poop them out. It’s an inefficient way to drink water, tho as we’re dealing with milligrams of absorption, not large volumes. But one of the colon’s main functions is to absorb water.

No. Whatever you put in stays pretty low in the intestine and soon comes out again. Remember, the intestinal muscles work to get stuff down, not up. Suppositories are made to be absorbed before they’re excreted, food isn’t. I suppose you could make food designed to be eaten through the rectum, but would you really want to?